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A POSTSCRIPT                                                                                            341
I was present at a sitting of the International Military
Tribunal in Nuremberg. It was on the day when Hermann
Goering's cross-examination was drawing to a close.
Shaken by the weight of documentary evidence and forced
to the wall by the interrogation of the Soviet Prosecutor,
"German Nazi No. 2" reluctantly, through clenched teeth,
told the court how the huge and hitherto invincible army
of fascism had collapsed and melted away under the blows
of the Soviet Army in battles fought in the vast expanses
of my country. Justifying himself, Goering raised his dull
eyes to heaven and said: "Such was the will of Provi-
"Do you admit that, in treacherously attacking the
Soviet Union, as a result of which Germany was routed,
you committed a most heinous crime?" Roman Rudenko,
the Soviet Prosecutor, asked Goering.
"It was not a crime, it was a fatal blunder," answered
Goering in a low voice, frowning and lowering his eyes.
"All I can admit is that we acted recklessly, because, as
became evident during the course of the war, we were
ignorant of many things, and many things we could not
even have suspected. The chief thing we did not know,
nor understand, was the character of the Soviet Russians.
They have been and remain a riddle. The best intelligence
service in the world cannot discover the Soviets' real war
potential. I don't mean the number of guns, aircraft and
tanks. That we knew approximately. Nor have I in mind
the capacity and capability of their industry. I have in
mind their people. The Russians have always been a riddle
to a foreigner. Napoleon, too, failed to understand them.
We merely repeated Napoleon's mistake."
This forced "confession" about the "riddle of the Rus-
sians", about our country's "unknown war potential",
filled us with pride. We could well believe that the
Soviet people, their ability, talent, courage and self-
sacrifice, which so astonished the world during the war,
had been and remained a fatal riddle to all these Goer-
ings. How, indeed, could the inventors of the wretched
"theory" about the Germans being the Herrenvolk un-
derstand the soul and strength of a people reared in a
socialist country? And I suddenly remembered Alexei
Maresyev. His half-forgotten image vividly rose before